4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Beginning a Mentoring Relationship



Prof. Colin May, M.S., CFE, CCCE
Stevenson University – Forensic Studies Program 

I have received many requests to be a mentor in the ACFE Mentoring Program, but due to several pressing projects, I cannot devote the time needed. But I did put together a short letter to those who would want to learn from the mentoring program.

Dear friend,

Thank you for your interest in the ACFE Mentoring Program. This is an important step for your career growth and in working to achieve your goals as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). I am grateful for the honor of your request. Having a mentor is an important career milestone and especially in this profession, it's essential.

Unfortunately, due to several previous commitments, I am unable to be your mentor right now. But I hope that this letter gives you some "food for thought" on the process and things that you can discuss with your mentor. Starting off with a basic foundation of key points is helpful to any mentoring relationship and this is a good place to start.

First, here are a few resources I'd offer. For a number of years, I wrote or edited a column in Fraud Magazine called "Starting Out." It was for young professionals, new CFEs and college students. If you search the Fraud Magazine website's online archive for "starting out," you should come across several useful columns. I strongly urge you to read my column about the "Four Career Questions" (July/August 2015) you should ask yourself.

Second, here are some great questions to think about before your first discussion with your mentor:

  • What are my strengths? How can I build upon them and continue to grow them? Are there places where I can use my strengths and leverage them?

  • What are my weak areas I need to improve upon? Think of these questions in both technical terms and overall business skills (presentation, writing, analysis, etc.).

  • How disciplined am I? This is important when developing a new skill, strengthening a weakness or eliminating bad habits.

  • What can I do to build my fraud examination skillset, even if I don't currently work in an investigative or anti-fraud capacity full-time? For example, how can I implement or use the concepts of interviewing in dealing with customers? Or, are there volunteer opportunities to help develop a prevention framework for a nonprofit organization?

Using these (and other) questions is a great starting point for any mentoring relationship. In addition, spending some time learning about each other's background and history is also helpful. As a mentor, I try to really understand my mentee and their "whole person," since our aspirations as fraud examiners may not be confined to our day job or even our recent work experience. These can be very fruitful and productive, since a mentor can help coach and see things a mentee may not!

Good luck to you in the ACFE Mentoring Program, and I wish you the very best. Taking the first step is the hardest, but most important. Keep your mind open and ready to receive! Keep plugging away. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are fulfilling anti-fraud careers. Be well.

Colin May, M.S., CFE, CCCE, is an Adjunct Professor of Forensic Studies and Criminal Justice at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Md. For more than 10 years, he was a Special Agent with the U.S. government. He is a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Cyber Crime Examiner (charter member). He may be reached at cmay3231@stevenson.edu. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.